As President Visits Pennsylvania PPE Distribution Center, Aging Services Leaders Detail Failure to Address COVID-19 Threats to Older Adults

PRESS RELEASE | May 14, 2020 | by Lisa Sanders

Contact: Lisa Sanders 202-508-9407

LeadingAge, a national association of more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers, released the following statement after President Trump’s remarks in Allentown, P.A., today:

“The President talked of rebuilding the national stockpile today, but he said nothing about the grave and growing threat to millions of older Americans who are highly vulnerable to the deadly threat of COVID-19—or about the widespread shortages of testing and PPE to protect them in nursing homes around the country.

It’s shocking that a visit to a mask distribution center would not include a commitment to provide nursing homes, assisted living and other aging services providers with the tools they need to protect their residents and frontline care workers.

We’re calling upon older Americans and their families to let federal policymakers know that older lives are not expendable. Nursing homes and frontline care workers in all settings need leaders to deliver a specific commitment and a specific plan.” 

At a press conference today before President Trump’s visit to an Allentown distributor of masks and other equipment, three aging services leaders shared the real picture—that too many older adults and their care workers are still without adequate PPE or testing.

Here are main quotes from the speakers:

  • Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge a national association of more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers.
  • Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAge PA, which represents over 365 nonprofit providers of senior housing, health care and community services across the Commonwealth.
  • James F. Bernardo, president & CEO, Presbyterian Senior Living, a nonprofit headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania that provides retirement and senior care services.

Katie Smith Sloan

  • "The President is visiting a PPE distributor in Allentown, Pennsylvania. But a few miles down the road from the rope lines and the photographers, aging services providers like Westminster Village at Allentown have been desperately scrounging for months for the PPE and tests they need to protect their residents from the virus.”
  • "Two weeks ago, I attended a White House event hoping for bold actions to get immediate help to care providers on the front line of the COVID crisis. Instead, only symbolic measures were announced. “
  • "The result is no surprise: a slow-motion catastrophe, playing out in communities in Pennsylvania and across the country. 8 in 10 people who have died of COVID-19 were people over 65.”
  • “Since the first day the crisis struck, care providers have been crying out for help. But week after week after week, those calls went unanswered.”
  • "Now, more than half of LeadingAge members say they expect their current supply of PPE to last at most two weeks.
  • “No more wishful thinking. No more empty promises. We know what needs to be done—and we need action now. Lives are at stake."

Adam Marles

  • “We have been asking for [help] for months, and it seems the state has finally started to prioritize long-term care facilities along with hospitals. More help has come from Harrisburg lately, but more is needed.”
  • Only a handful of members have received the promised PPE from the federal government. Our members are still without adequate testing despite recent proclamations from the President and our own Secretary of Health. There are not enough tests or swabs to test within all of our facilities.”
  • “It is clear the federal government must do more. This is a national problem that doesn’t stop at our state’s borders.
  • “I am outraged by talk of how lives are expendable. Older Americans lives are not expendable—they’re precious, just like yours or mine. Let’s treat them that way.”

James F. Bernardo

  • “The most insidious part of this virus is the number of people that are affected and show no symptoms.”
  • “The care of a skilled nursing resident is truly personal care. The care our aides provide cannot be done remotely.
  • We currently have 20 staff working 100 hours a week finding PPE, getting it, and delivering it to our communities.
  • “Meeting federal standards… and this is just for gowns now, we would be required to have 15 gowns per day, per resident. That’s 5,340 gowns per day or 37,380 gowns per week. Nowhere in any of these programs are we being promised that number of gowns.”
  • “As we think about what is happening in nursing homes, we need to think of this NOT as a failure of nursing homes, but to view this as a failure of our society and our government to prepare and mitigate the onslaught of this insidious virus—by providing testing and PPE—and not allowing it to ravage our most vulnerable seniors.”
About LeadingAge:

We represent more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we address critical issues by blending applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building. We bring together the most inventive minds in our field to support older adults as they age wherever they call home. We make America a better place to grow old. For more information: